God meets us in the unexpected. This is a truth throughout human history. Abraham left his homeland and trusted God would gift him a legacy of descendants (Genesis 12:1-23). Moses met the Divine under the guise of a burning bush (Exodus 3). Salvation history contains many other examples of men and women meeting God in a unique or unexpected manner. This week the Catholic Church celebrates Holy Week.
Palm Sunday is the beginning of this solemn period. It marks Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. His entrance into the capital city had the feel of grandeur and might. People were excited. According to the Matthew 21:8-10,
The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road,
while others cut branches from the trees
and strewed them on the road.
The crowds preceding him and those following
kept crying out and saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David;
blessed is the he who comes in the name of the Lord;
hosanna in the highest.”
And when he entered Jerusalem
the whole city was shaken and asked, “Who is this?”
And the crowds replied,
“This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Expectation and anticipation. That summed up the attitude of the Jews. The Scriptures prophesied of a messiah sent by God to unite the Israelites. Many misinterpreted the messiah being a military or political leader. Jesus was the true Messiah. He did come to provide salvation and unite a divided people. But God’s plan is always bigger than it first appears.
Anticipating the New
Did you begin 2020 with anticipation? Excitement? Joy? I certainly did. This was the year we truly were in the future. As a kid I always viewed 2020 as so far off. Interestingly, the start of this new year kind of was a letdown. No flying cars. Or universal hologram system. But soon we learned that this year was going to be one for the history books.
Originating in the Wuhan region of China, the novel coronavirus spread quickly around the globe. Social distancing, pandemic, flatten the curve, and closure of public events have become common words and phrases. The greatest impact to Catholics across the world is not being able to celebrate public Masses.
It happened so fast that I truly didn’t get to process how I felt about it. Combined with toilet paper fiasco and ever-changing death tolls on the news you too may not have thought in depth about what this change means for our faith.
Technically, we are still in the season of Lent. Hard to believe. March seemed to last forever. It came in like a lion and roared out like a dragon. But Holy Week is upon us. COVID-19 is not going anywhere soon. How do you celebrate the holiest of weeks without being in communion with your priests, deacons, and the rest of the laity?
Domestic Church is Where the Faith Starts
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 1666, “The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called ‘the domestic church,’ a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity.” Public mass gatherings are suspended. But your faith does not need to be put on hold. Parents are the first teachers of the faith. This promise is pledged at a child’s baptism and renewed at subsequent baptismal ceremonies.
In Toddlers: An Adorable Trace of the Trinity!, I discuss how the sacramental graces received in marriage help me during tough times. I wrote, ”
A fruit of the sacrament of marriage is children. The family life is a great arena by which a sinful man like me may be tested and tried daily. Such testing will hopefully result in an increase in holiness. I think of my children as the best gift that our Trinitarian God has given me personally to grow in virtue daily.
The sacrament of marriage is more important that ever. If you are married, look to your spouse for strength. Serve your husband or wife with love and kindness. Pray for married couples if you are single, religious, or ordained. Quarantine time is not an easy thing to endure, but it need not be a stressful period. Let it be a time for holiness and renewal.
Sacrifice Leads to Holiness
St. Sebastian Valfre wrote, “When it is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather you will regret having suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly.” This is profound. Jesus came to serve others. His sacrifice on the Cross was in atonement for humanity’s turning away from God. Christ showed us the way toward Truth is self-denial.
Lent 2020 definitely will be remembered as a season of self-denial. Easter plans cancelled. Hugging your extended family member and friends discouraged. I can’t even remember the last time the sign of peace was done at Mass.
Sacrifice. That’s the meaning of the season.
Social distancing, adjusting your plans, celebrating Mass virtually, or changing your grocery shopping habits are not easy. Change hurts. It involves some kind of pain. But out of love for others and keeping them safe we implement these sacrifices.
An Unexpected Holy Week
Not being able to receive Jesus sacramentally in the Blessed Sacrament is painful. God works in unexpected ways. He did it with Abraham, Moses, and the Apostles. And now He is revealing to us a plan. A plan for renewal and greater appreciation for the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. More and more people are talking about the Mass. They miss it. Long for it.
Have you ever received a gift you can’t tell the person ‘thank you’ in person? It kind of hurts to contain your joy. That’s is how I feel missing Mass. I wish so much to thank God for everything in His Real Presence. You probably feel a similar pain. It’s okay to lament the situation. But don’t despair. Let’s look at this as an opportunity to sacrifice as a means to grow in holiness.
Take this week to thank God for the blessings in your life. Read the Bible and go to your diocesan website for online live or recorded liturgy options. If you have children visit sites like Holy Heroes or Catholic Brain for fun and educational Catholic activities.
Don’t lose hope. All things pass. No virus can keep the joy of the Gospel from those who believe. “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” —Matthew 19:14
May God bless you during this Holy Week. Here was a snapshot of my family’s Palm Sunday. 😊
Amelia: “The holiness is flying all around!”
Josiah: “Pom-Pom (palm-palm)
Kids(chanting): “All hail King Jesus!!”